Spotlights Performers that Connect with Jersey Cityâ€™s Diverse Community
By Sally Deering
The stage isnâ€™t very big at Fox & Crow, the hip pub and â€œparlourâ€ on Palisade Ave. in The Heights. Nevertheless, itâ€™s a great Jersey City venue for some pretty big talent and nobody knows that better than the clubâ€™s music curator/booking manager Margo Parks.
For more than a year now, Parks has been scouting the acts for Fox & Crow; just one of her many jobs in the music industry. She also works at Kaleidoscope Sound recording studio in Union City and books talent for the annual A-Town Get Down in Savannah, Georgia. Married to popular musician Walter Parks (lead guitarist for the late and great Ritchie Havens), Margo Parks books gigs for her husbandâ€™s band, Swamp Cabbage, too. Although not a musician, per se, Margo Parks spends most of her time and energy with musiciansâ€“ and thatâ€™s just fine with her.
This is not a line of work Parks just fell into. She holds a Bachelorâ€™s Degree in Music from NYU, where she studied the business of music; and she has spent the past 20 years honing her craft as scout and booker. And when sheâ€™s not curating acts for Fox & Crow and gigs for Walterâ€™s band, Margo and Walter host art happenings at The Statuary, their home in The Heights, on JC Fridays.
â€œSwingadelicâ€ performed at Fox & Crow, Jan. 20
On a recent Friday night, Parks invited an all-female band Vicki Kristina Barcelona to perform at Fox & Crow and they wowed the crowd with two sets of Tom Waitsâ€™ songs that melded beautifully with their originals. On Fri, Jan. 20, Swingadelic grooved the parlour. And Parks already set Februaryâ€™s entertainment schedule with acts like Chrissi Poland, Adam Falcon and Jon Shain.
RVO: We loved Vicki Kristina Barcelona, how did you get them for Fox & Crow?
MP: Walter, my husband is a musician and Terry Radigan of Vicki Kristina Barcelona Band hosts a roundup once a month in Brooklyn. She invited Walter to that a couple of times. Her group also performed. Iâ€™ve known Amanda, whoâ€™s also in the band, through other groups.
RVO: Your husband Walter Parks played with the late Ritchie Havens?
MP: Walter is a guitarist and singer. He has his own band Swamp Cabbage, and he plays solo. Walter was touring with Ritchie Havens for 9 or 10 years as lead guitarist. Three or 4 days a week, he was on the road. Heâ€™s on the road a lot, these days, but mostly with his own stuff.
RVO: How did you get to be music curator for Fox & Crow?
MP: The owners wanted to have live music in the back room. That was about a year ago.
I offered to help and it became a job. I love it. Iâ€™ve been working in the music world for almost 20 years.
RVO: How did you get into the business of music?
MP: I studied music business in college. I went to NYU and got a Bachelorâ€™s of Music â€“ it was a specialty offered in the music school. I took all of the basic business courses in the business school, took basic music courses and courses that specialized in the music industry. The concert promoter for the Beacon Theater was one of my teachers. He taught us about contracts, publicity, the angle from the music industry. It was interesting. We did internships, too. I interned with Channel 13 and Monmouth Records. I worked with an artist manager, sort of what I ended up doing, and she worked with several different artists and I would help her with radio promotion. I ended up working with Empress Records. I was one of their first employees.
Chrissi Poland performs at Fox & Crow Feb. 25
RVO: You also worked with Rachel Sage as her label manager?
MP: With Rachel, I was an assistant, and then became her label manager, I talked to the distribution company, went to music conferences and we would have a showcase where we would bring in artists. I stopped there in 2004, and started working for Grassy Hill Entertainment. We did a lot of showcases like the Folk Alliance, and we would bring in other artists to do the showcases once or twice a year. I would say the time I would start to scout was when I helped found a festival in Savannah called A-Town Get Down. It started as a benefit for Alex Townsend, who passed away way too young. His family are friends of ours. It was our tribute to him. It ham Its become bigger than that music event We is family are friends of ours. It was our tribute to him Its become bigger than ts become bigger than that first time, a real art and music event.
RVO: What do you do at Kaleidoscope Sound?
MP: We do a wide variety of music, but mostly world music and jazz. I handle all of their bookings and scheduling. Thereâ€™s a theme here. Itâ€™s probably another way I learn about a lot of musicians, because I have musicians and bands calling.
Adam Falcon performs at Fox & Crow Feb. 18
RVO: What exactly is The Statuary?
MP: The Statuary is our home. We bought it in 2005 from the Jersey Statuary that made religious statues, a family-owned business that made Marys and Jesuses and painted them for about 80 years. They were the only people doing it for a 200-mile radius. Then they retired. We renovated the building, and the first floor we keep as a gallery space. On JC Fridays weâ€™ll have a free cultural event, an artist and music event. The first time we did it as a tribute to the family that owned the business. They still lived in the neighborhood and we wanted to show what the building had become. Thatâ€™s what we had promised them; that we would keep it standing and would renovate it. It was inspiring to see the neighborhood come, people who had been to our house when they were kids. We had over 100 people come to that first event; it was a fun group of people. We try to keep each one thematic and different.
RVO: There seems to be an art renaissance happening in The Heights. Whatâ€™s your take on it?
MP: We have so many artists and musicians that live up here. This community is very active. Thereâ€™s the Lumberyard series, the Farmersâ€™ Market, the Washington Park Association that has the Art & Music Festival. I think theyâ€™re doing more throughout the year. The Holland Street Project, the Riverview Jazz Festival and the Riverview Art Association. Corkscrew has music on a regular basis. Art House does a lot of theater as well as art events. Itâ€™s a wonderful community.
Jon Shain performs at Fox & Crow Feb 17
RVO: Fox & Crow seems to have taken off as a go-to destination for live entertainment.
MP: At Fox & Crow, people are coming out just to see what weâ€™re doing in the Parlour. There are so many places that have rock and roll and the blues. I try to do something different than what you typically get in a bar. Itâ€™s such a small space, I want to keep it a listening room vibe.
RVO: Do you like your work as a music curator; is it fun?
MP: The fun part for me, I love looking for live music and listening to whatâ€™s out there and I like bringing music to the community. I like being able to introduce quality, culturally diverse music, especially when people respond to it. Last year, I had a young woman from Chicago who does a tribute to Edith Piaf. People came out and were excited and respected what she was trying to do. Those special nights are really exciting for me.
If you go
Fox & Crow Pub & Parlour
594 Palisade Ave, JC
Coming up in the Parlour
Every Sunday in the bar, Adam Melchor, 5 â€“ 8 pm
Fri, Feb 3 Sean Kiely, 10 pm â€“ 12 am
Sat, Feb 4 Ray Corvair, 10 pm â€“ 12 am
Tues, Feb 7 Backroom Broadsides (spoken word series), 8 â€“ 10 pm
Fri, Feb 10 Pat Van Dyke w/ DJ Prestige, 9 pm â€“ 12 am
Sat, Feb 11 Tyrone Cotton + Julia Patinella, 10 pm â€“ 12 am
Fri, Feb 17 Jon Shain, 10 pm â€“ 12 am
Sat, Feb 18 Adam Falcon, 10 pm â€“ 12 am
Fri, Feb 24 Dan O’Dea and Eagle Ridge, 10 pm â€“ 12 am
Sat, Feb 25 Chrissi Poland, 10 pm â€“ 12 am